Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ye Olde Almaniac

I picked up a copy of the 2008 Old Farmer’s Almanac -- proudly aware that now I could legitimately say I needed to consult it. “Consult” might not be the best word… dig into it, plow through the ads and promotions, looking for the actual almanac… as far as I could tell, the first almaniacal information (on the year’s weather) started on page 80, the masthead was on page 84, and “How to Use this Almanac“ was on page 110! Obviously, this is one publications that knows about “compost”! That’s a heap o’ turning to get to the good stuff… and then, to add to the fun, the tables themselves -- the part with the information -- is printed in 5 to 8 point type! Given the average farmer’s age, you’d think they’d package this with a magnifying glass…I suppose if they made a Large Type edition, it would be the size of an encyclopedia (you remember -- those were the big books that held up various piece of furniture because they were so uniform in size?) And then they compound the problem by playing with typeface -- I didn’t even know they had Olde English typeface in 5 point type! I have to enlarge the page on my copier/scanner just to read it.

And then there’s the instruction page, with its bold arrows and arithmetic equations for deciphering the numbers for your individual town and state. I paged back and forth several times, squinting at the examples and finding the key letter for my town… okay - my town is not listed, (of course not! it’s a small rural town! Where the farms are!) but I found the two closest cities and then all I had to do after I figured out the proper key was to position the number of minutes to add or subtract somewhere between the two numbers given. (Huh?) I was glad I wasn’t doing sunrise or sunset rituals or fasting for any daylight ceremonies, because I don’t have to be exact to the minute. In fact, I generally forget the time the moment I close the book. But it’s comforting to know that I can check the table if any day I think the sun has gotten lazy… And reading the monthly Table of Events is a trip - not too many books have lists of the saint’s days alongside the start of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame… but I’ll bet the old Almanacs didn’t have ads for Viagra (it wasn’t a veterinarian version, either).

But not all of the pages before page 80 are pure ads… there are some “entertaining articles” (which are created purely to tease readers into opening the pages full of ads). Page six has a list of predictions for the new smart houses of the future, which, they say, will be called ‘responsive houses”… these houses will be able to shrink in the winter to conserve heat, shake snow off the roof, and have windows and doors that change size and type, and open/close to regulate heat/temperatures… that sounds like living inside a dog! What, exactly, do they think will happen to the good china when this house shakes itself to get the fleas -- sorry, snow -- off? And will it heel like a loyal lab, or will it be a bumptious mongrel that flares the windows and doors for fun, while you stand there howling for it to behave? I can just imagine the fun of living in a place that changes size when it decides it’s needed. Some morning I wake up in a bedroom the size of a breadbox! But perhaps they’re expecting that by then the furniture will have “contraction sensors” and will downsize accordingly… and I’ll be like Alice in Wonderland, sitting in -- or wearing -- a room and wondering where the bottle marked “Drink Me” is! It makes me wonder what these farmers are growing…

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